Saturday, February 11, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On Logic Being a Special Preserve of the Learned)

[I]t is easy to get caught up in all of the arguments of "is WWWWW's PhD valid or not", etc. but that is beside the point. Even if it was, a valid PhD does not grant them immunity from making crappy arguments. For that reason, focus on their arguments not their presumed "credentials" or lack thereof.

The truth is, one can be logical without being learned. My father did not have a high school diploma, could not read well due to poor vision, etc., but he hardly was incapable of making logical arguments. The two do not have an intrinsic connection insofar as they must be present at the same time. Obviously knowledge can assist someone in making an argument but the tools for making a proper argument are not (and never have been) a special preserve of the educated.

Indeed, the moment it is conceded (even tacitly) that one has to be learned to be logical is the moment that academic elitists can impose an intellectual tyranny onto the rest of humanity. The truth is, intellectuals are often quite stupid and can make stupid arguments. Likewise, recognized "experts" in a particular area of study also can make poor arguments or misjudge matters. This is why what must be assessed is the validity (or lack thereof) of a theory or thesis they seek to advance, not the status of the person involved. [Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa February 11, 2006)]

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Friday, February 10, 2006

With all the hulabaloo over the St. Blogs "Awards" that is circulating in the blososphere, it seems appropriate at this time to renew in substance (if not in exact details) a lot of my criticisms over the way things went last year since Santayana's dictum about learning from history is so often ignored by the masses of people who involve themselves in these things. I predict three things with this year's "awards" and they are as follows:

---Candidates will be nominated for (and possibly win) in categories where they have no business whatsoever even being nominated.

---A number of very fine weblogs will be overlooked yet again in this years nominations.

---There will be probably be yet more cheating this year as there was last year with blogs no one has heard of being nominated in categories and (possibly) winning.

Anyway, if I do not go at least two for three with these predictions (and most likely three for three) I will be shocked to put it mildly my friends. But I digress.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Some Principles For Authentic Dialogue and the Proper Use of Sources in Papers:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Certainly some of these subjects have been posted on over the years by the present writer in various mediums.{1} However, the subject of authentic dialogue and how to conduct it is one that is still appropriate to touch on from time to time -particularly after the kind of public spats that have taken place and to which those of Us at Rerum Novarum were unfortunately drawn into recently. It also seems appropriate at this time to touch on some of the principles that should be utilized whenever sources are quoted in a paper purporting to set forth a position on any subject.

For that reason (and without any intention of completion), the purpose of this thread will be to touch on some key points in a summary fashion which the present writer may take and develop further in the coming weeks and months if the time and inclination to do so converge to facilitate that endeavour. Nonetheless, authentic dialogue should facilitate these characteristics (as noted in blue font):

---Striving to enter into the viewpoint of the other person as much as you possibly can.

This is done to best try and understand where they are coming from. Rarely is this practiced today by anyone but it is an indispensible part of the equation of authentic dialogue. How is one to do this??? It starts with the next point to be covered...

---Listening to what someone actually says and taking time to assimilate their arguments into the collective of your mind.

Without mentioning any names, your host can think of many people who think they know how to dialogue but who appear to evince no familiarity whatsoever at times with those two key elements of authentic dialogue. Listening does not mean scanning the words of someone to immediately throw together a half-baked (if even that) "response" which demonstrates that you did not bother to take in what they actually said. That brings us to the next point to be touched on...

---Striving to conform ones approaches to the canons of traditional charity as much as one feasibly can.

This is also important. With variations in views one encounters differing interpretations of data, etc. and it is anathema to authentic dialogue to either presume that apparent incongruities in someone's statements are a result of deliberate obstinence without a reasonable degree of evidence to do so first.{2}

---Seeking to properly represent the positions of the other person in accordance with objective criteria.

This means do not engage in petitio principii methodology or trying to find cute ways to redefine matters apart from how they are objectively assessed.{3}

---Seeking to at all times respect the wishes of the other person viz. the manner in which one seeks dialogue in various mediums.

If there is any area that sets your host off like a Roman candle on the fourth of July it is this one. One of the reasons there is a Welborn Protocol at this weblog is because email is a very good source for writing topics and it enables for interaction with readers on topics covered at this weblog without the hassle of messing with comments boxes and the general low grade of stuff that those things engender as a rule.{4} Certainly every posting protocol has regulations of which seldom need to be mentioned...though recently at this humble weblog they did{5} due to an unfortunate circumstance not to be delved into at the moment due to a lack of time and desire to do so.

Nonetheless, it should not be presumed that any correspondence in the private forum can be taken public without the concurrence of the parties involved in the correspondence. (Either explicitly or tacitly.) In the case of your humble weblog host, he almost always explicitly notes somewhere in a private text that such a text may be blogged later on with the parties involved not mentioned by name. Those who do not make a similar disclosure to those they discuss matters with privately engage in an egregious violation of the sanctity of the private forum which should be treated almost as if it is a confessional in some respects...and no, that is not seen by your host as an exaggeration for reasons{6} not about to be dealt with in detail here.

The reason your host almost always refers to people anonymously in posting such threads (when they are posted at all which is not often) is because the purpose of dialogue is not to seek in it our own advantages. This is one of the points made clear by Paul VI in Ecclesiam Suam and which was covered by Us in a commentary on dialogue and its intricacies written a few years ago.{7} Those who wonder why your host has as a rule{8} not referred to individuals in his writings over the years and why that practice will remain intact in the future will now know the reason for that. In a sentence: to mention names generally distracts from the issues of discussion and introduces personalities into the mix. Once the latter happens, it is very difficult if not impossible to have an authentic dialogue if one of those parties is a grandstander or otherwise tries to draw attention to themselves.

Another way of saying it is this: the focus belongs not on the persons but instead on the arguments. That is the only way to try and check egos from coming into the equation and we all know what happens to any semblence of a decent discussion once that happens so no more needs to be said on that point.

---Make actual arguments for a position rather than merely give the opinions of others as if said opinions constitute an actual argument in and of themselves.

This should be self-evident but alas, often it is not.

---In citing sources, concern for proper context should be viewed to be of importance.

Once again, this should be self-evident but it is not. One of the reasons your host so often links to his sources in essay writings or on this weblog is so that it can be verified that he is quoting those sources correctly and not absent proper context. Obviously this cannot always be done since sometimes one must quote a source that cannot be found on the web. However, by disclosing web sources when they are utilized as a rule, the reader can recognize that the present writer quotes sources correctly and thus implicitly trust him when he quotes from a source they may not have access to.

The converse principle is also true in that those who demonstrate that they cannot be trusted in quoting sources which can be verified should not be trusted to quote accurately sources which they cite and the reader cannot verify. But enough on that point for now.

---In utilizing any source with a degree of controversion pertaining to it, factors which may bias that source should be disclosed to the readers if they either are known or can be reasonably ascertained.

For example, consider if this writer was to quote the Institute of Historical Review as a source critical of the Holocaust and the number of Jewish deaths and not reveal that the IHR was comprised of no small number of former Nazis and other unsavoury characters with an obvious agenda. If that were to happen, then this writer would be failing to practice proper disclosure of the source viz. certain key factors biasing the source's view. As a result, he would be deserving of a rebuke of no small degree by his contemporaries in no uncertain terms.{9}

---There should always be a strong hesitancy against making any kind of strong and opinionated public assertions on an issue where the person in question has minimal knowledge (if any) on.

Those who would presume to act in that fashion should not be surprised when they are treated less than amicably in the process...particularly if in doing so they also find themselves violating any of the other principles noted briefly in this posting.

While it is obvious that more could be covered on this matter than is covered by Us above; nonetheless, what is dealt with here suffices for a brief outline of certain principles for conducting an authentic dialogue and representing an argument accurately, non-fallaciously, and with scholarly integrity.


{1} Here are some of the threads posted on this subject by your host in recent years -either directly on the matter in question or indirectly as examples of methodology:

Miscellaneous Musings on Dialogue--An Audio Post (circa October 6, 2005)

On Dialogue and When it is a Waste of Time (circa September 27, 2005)

Clarifying Some Additional Points on the Atomic Bombing Subject With Dave Armstrong (circa August 28, 2005)

Musings on the Subject of Authentic Dialogue (circa May 20, 2005)

Prelude to a Potential Dialogue on the Subject of Foundational Presuppositions (circa April 18, 2005)

On Historical Figures, Development of Doctrine, and Briefly on Different Views of Historical People and Events With Tim Enloe (circa October 21, 2004)

On the War, Moral and Constitutional Principles, "Supporting the Troops", Etc. With SecretAgentMan (circa August 20, 2004)

On Marriage, the Supreme Court, Law in General, Etc. With Charles M. de Nunzio (circa June 2, 2004)

Society's Ills, the Function of Law in a Just Society, Etc. With Kevin Tierney (circa April 16, 2004)

Reprising a Request for Dialogue on Foundational Premises (circa March 14, 2004)

Brief Response and a Request to Tim Enloe (circa February 22, 2004)

On the Intricacies of Dialogue - A Commentary (circa December 16, 2003)

{2} This is what could be called motives of credibility. Admittedly, your host has a habit of giving a lot of leeway to people (particularly friends) up to a certain point where this is no longer possible. At that point, the benenfit of the doubt is cut off and not easily re-established without evidence of reasonable repentence on the part of the aforementioned parties for their past indiscretions.

{3} One example of many I can think of is making an obviously fallacious usage of argumentum ad veridunciam (argument to authority) and then trying to dress it up in ways to explain away your fallacy.

{4} This writer is hardly going to completely dismiss comments boxes of course since some of the ideas posted on this very weblog (or even whole posts sometimes) have been from material originally posted to comments boxes. There is almost always refinement of such material before it is posted of course -and not infrequently points barely touched on at all originally are developed further in said postings or later on as deemed necessary.

{5} Clarifying My Policy Viz. Private Correspondence--A Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG post (circa January 27, 2006)

{6} There is another principle I have always followed and essentially it is this: if someone sends me a note requesting confidentiality on a particular subject matter, I almost always consider all subsequent emails sent on that subject matter from that emailer to have the same promise of confidentiality that I make when responding to the first note in the series. The reason for this should be obvious: they had already requested the thread to be private so by logical extension subsequent installments are also covered by that cloak unless or until the sender consents at some point for that material to be posted. As a result of this, I get emails from time to time from people who would be considered (by the casual reader) "public enemies" of mine where they do not specify confidentiality and their stuff does not get posted. The reason for this is spelled out in the principle as noted above. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG (circa January 27, 2006)]

{7} On the Intricacies of Dialogue - A Commentary (circa December 16, 2003)

{8} The emphasis here belongs on as a rule because sometimes when it seems to be helpful or has been deemed necessary due to certain circumstances, your host has mentioned people by name. In the case of the former it is usually with those who do not try to inject personalities into the dialogue but prefer to stick to ideas. In the case of the latter, it is those who in some fashion or another egregiously misrepresent what your host or someone else has written and gives every appearance of doing so deliberately to appeal to the peanut gallery or for some other reason.

Like zeal which has many counterfeits which masquerade under its name, there are more counterfeits than authentic coinage in the dialogical currency. And the fraudulent dialoguists can find themselves sometimes on the receiving end of a fisking by Us...the ferocity of which is generally in direct proportion to their mockery of the concept of authentic dialogue and practicing basic aspects of scholarly inquiry.

{9} And (of course) the proper and ethical thing to do at that point would be to correct the source by inserting a disclosure or deleting the source and apologizing for using it to begin with. (Not pretending that usage of such a source in that fashion or a similar one was in any sense okay to do.)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On Reality)

If the denial of the Seahawks’ first quarter touchdown was the correct call and the awarding of the Steelers’ first second quarter touchdown was the correct call, then we’re obviously living in a world where I’m going to win the Nobel Prize for Physics next year. I’ll start writing my speech. [Kieran Healy (circa February 6, 2006)]

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Synopsis on the Superbowl:
(Aka "None Dare Call it a Conspiracy" Dept.)

Briefly from the mailbag...

I was predicting 28 to 10, Steelers. I was right about Seattle, but one touchdown off for Pittsburgh. If they didn't through that interception at the 2 yard line, I am sure they would have scored a touchdown.

Presumably some may have thought who read this weblog that your host was gonna slink off quietly after his prediction of a Seahawk victory in the Superbowl did not come about. That would not be Our style at all so we admit it up front here before going into a synosis on what happened: OUR PREDICTION WAS WRONG. Not for the reasons some might think but it was wrong nonetheless. There, having noted that and after correcting an A1 error or blown prediction on A1, let Us move onto the aforenoted synopsis.

To start with, it should have been 24-0 Hawks at halftime. The fieldgoal misses were odd cause Josh Brown almost always hits from 50 and beyond on the fieldgoals. Receivers were open all day but the most often used target of the day (the 6'7" tightend Jeremy Stevens) had his usually reliable hands fail him for some reason.

The Steelers were unable to move the ball for most of the game. But the Hawks shot themselves in the foot too many times. However (and this must be said cause it was true) the refs did not help either...the coincidence of three of those calls sure gives at a minimum the appearance of impropriety if not a fix. Part of the reason instant replay was put into the game was because of crap like that but it does not help when referees do not do their job in reviewing the tape.

On three of the plays, Stevie Wonder could have done a better job with the officiating!!! For example, Darryl Jackson of the Hawks was called for a foul where he did not touch the other guy, there was that stupid so-called "low-blocking" call back when Jackson made another reception for about 40 yards for first and goal at the 3 (there was no penalty on that play). Ben Roethlisberger's so-called "touchdown" where the ball did not break the plane of the goalline, etc.{1} To the credit of Chris Berman, Steve Young, and Michael Irvin, they pointed those things out...hell, Irvin made a career out of the kind of contact Jackson was supposedly called for without being called. Once again, the bias against small market teams was evident{2} and it sickens Us to no end to see it cause the game should be left to the players not the officials.

The bottom line is, the so-called "finesse team" roughed up the big bad Steelers as We knew they would. So in giving out the MVP award, give it to those whom it belongs: the referees. The better team definitely did not get the trophy but We see nothing keeping the Hawks from returning next year provided that they have less injuries than they had this year.{3} They exceeded Our preseason predictions this year so it was in that sense a very good year. And if they do go next year, We intend to be there in person.

Oh and to those who made drinks bets with Us need not worry as We will pay up on them in due time. But those people would do well to remember that that in paying them back as We will to return the debt by buying a round for your NFL Superbowl referees, the real "MVP's" of that game without question.


Interestingly enough, two third string players factored in the game...the third string safety missing a key read that resulted in the 75 yard touchdown run and a third string cornerback with the fourth quarter interception.

It should be noted lest anyone think We have an animus against Pittsburgh in saying these things that nothing is further from the truth. They have been Our second favourite team for years, We like Cowher as a coach and Bettis is one for whom We wish the best no matter what he does in the offseason. But the truth is, they were beaten up by a better team and east coast big market bias was a factor again in a professional sport playoff or championship game. And while it happens in all the leagues and the NFL is hardly unique, they claim to be the premiere professional league in all of sports so they should show it by causing some heads to roll after this fiasco...starting with some of those who officiated that game!!! That is all on this subject for now...


{1} It is quite likely that if that play was called correctly that Cowher would have gone for a fieldgoal and they would have made it from that distance. (Not wanting to fail on a fourth down attempt that early in the game.)

{2} Ala Michael Jordan back in the day traveling enough in the paint to rack up a free ticket to the moon and was almost never called whereas a rookie player doing the exact same stuff being repeatedly called for the exact same thing. Veteran pitchers like Glavine and Maddux getting an extra ball or two on the outside of the plate called a strike whereas a rookie with a throw in exactly the same place getting it called as a ball, etc. Wethinks some of the refs had bets on the spread or something cause the three plays mentioned above in how they were called smelled worse than a portapotty three months overdue for servicing.

{3} No team in football was missing more key starters throughout the year at larger intervals than the Hawks did and they still managed to make it to the big dance. If Alexander is resigned and Strong does not retire, the offense will return intact and the defense everyone thought would stink this year will be even better still.

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